“…I know who I am, responded Don Quixote, and I know what I can be…”1
1. A Change of Mind
Sábato’s expression grew serious. He shuffled around in his chair, his eyes fixed on the sightless man sitting before him. “Borges,” he said, “I’d like to talk about Don Quixote.”2
They sat in a mostly deserted Buenos Aires bar, cooling off from their stroll out in the December heat. Borges was drinking water, Sábato whiskey. The journalist Orlando Barone, who had set up their get-together, was present, observing, taking notes. He says Borges hesitated before responding. He says there was tension in the air, “as if before a confrontation.” He says he checked the tape inside his recorder, to make sure he wouldn’t have to replace it in the middle of the action. No, there was enough. Barone relaxed, sat back, listened.
“You know, Sábato,” said Borges at last, “I’ve changed my mind about Don Quixote.”
Sábato, Barone remarks, smiled skeptically. Borges wasn’t known for admissions of error. “And what do you think now?”
“I’ve been unfair. There was a time I thought Quevedo was better than Cervantes.” Francisco de Quevedo was Miguel de Cervantes’ contemporary, and far better known and regarded in their time. Historical memory embraced the latter and neglected the former, as the three men sitting around the table knew more than well. Barone says of Borges and Sábato that they were “two hunters who prowl different territories so they never have to face each other.”3 The same was true of their illustrious Spaniard antecessors. “Perhaps Quevedo was a better writer line for line, page for page,” continued Borges. “But as a whole he was infinitely inferior, because he never could create a character like Don Quixote. Cervantes didn’t need the craft, he had the intuitive gift, the genius Quevedo lacked. So there, I was unfair to Cervantes, and I want to publicly admit my mistake.”
Sábato tried for magnanimity in the face of such an earnest, unexpected mea culpa. “I’m not surprised to hear you say that, Borges,” he said. “I think your current view was already germinating when you first wrote about Don Quixote. In one essay you said that Quevedo was the greatest stylist in the Spanish language. But then you added, ‘But Cervantes…’, with a melancholy ellipsis. I wrote in one of my essays that […] there are two Borges: one admires Quevedo and the other, more profound, reveals himself before Cervantes.”
But Sábato couldn’t pull it off. He couldn’t let go of Borges’ many past insults to Don Quixote, in word and in writing. Just minutes earlier Borges had defended the Argentine-French literato Paul Groussac’s evaluation of Cervantes as a “writer fit for dessert.” Cervantes’ characters are sublime, Borges recognized, but his prose is “censurable” and “overwrought” and “archaistic.” Such heresy couldn’t be allowed to stand. “Don Quixote is a work of genius,” Sábato sentenced with assured finality, “one of the two or three most brilliant works that have ever been. And that’s because Cervantes said what he had to say and in the way he had to say it. We can’t separate the form and the essence. That’s why I always found Groussac’s position [and, by extension, he didn’t say it, but the three men present, and all discerning readers thereafter, understood, also Borges’] pedantic and absurd.”4
2. Brought Together
Pedantic and absurd. Not many would’ve dared call Jorge Luis Borges such names to his face. Barone, behind his placid and professional demeanor, surely was doing mental cartwheels of joy. This was why he’d brought them together after all, not for the genteel, hypocritical courtesy the two most renowned men of letters in Argentina were displaying towards each other, not for the esoteric curiosities each unearthed from his titanic memory, but for the fireworks, the verbal jabs and parries, the rancor and grudges brought to the surface.
The idea came to him during the waning months of 1974, late spring in the Southern Hemisphere, as he stood amidst a crowd of onlookers in a Buenos Aires bookstore watching Borges autograph books after a public reading. The occasion was quiet and unremarkable (Borges was perennially out and about during his old age, basking in the public adoration) until the unthinkable happened. The door opened and in came none other than Ernesto Sábato, at the time quite possibly Argentina’s second-most admired writer.5 To the astonishment of those present, for it was common knowledge in cultural circles that the two men detested each other and had not spoken in over twenty years, Sábato went directly to Borges. The two exchanged a friendly greeting, a few words, a laugh, then Sábato exited and went on his way.6 Barone, who was editor in chief at Gente magazine, immediately saw an opening. If the two writers were ready to show such a friendly manner in public, would they agree to sit together for a series of extended conversations?
The answer, incredibly, was yes. Borges and Sábato eventually met seven times, first in mid-December 1974, last in mid-March of the next year. All were recorded by Barone except the first, which was attended by the Gente journalist Alfredo Serra, and the set of transcripts was eventually published, along with Barone’s commentary, in book form as Diálogos Borges-Sábato. The exchanges reveal a pair of impossibly erudite frenemies, constantly interrupting and trying to outdo each other with competing barrages of anecdotes and recondite tidbits of knowledge.7 The confrontation about Don Quixote happened during the second, most heated of the sessions. No doubt to Barone’s disappointment, they were more careful and guarded thereafter, as if sensing that in that crucial exchange they had revealed too much. The book nevertheless commemorates an almost mythical event in Argentine literary life, a long awaited meeting of two minds exalted to quasi-divine levels, which as a bonus provided the opportunity to capture a set of iconic black-and-white photographs of the two men together. Excepting a nightmarish, highly publicized lunch with a dictator a year later, there’s no evidence Borges and Sábato ever spoke or met again.
For the first session they walked the city streets then went into an old-school almacén to share a glass of caña while they talked, shadowed by Serra and the team of photographers. Several of the images captured that day show the two giants of Argentine letters sitting face to face at a narrow coffee-shop table, on straight-backed wooden coffee-shop chairs, a small glass on a saucer in front of each, and beneath it all a floor of black and white quadrangular tiles. They look aged, bent over, frail, impossible to predict then that Borges (born in 1899) would live on for ten years after the photos were taken, until his death at the ripe old age of eighty-seven, or that Sábato would linger on and on, finally passing away in 2011, just a few weeks shy of his hundredth birthday. One picture, taken from above, became the cover image of several editions of Barone’s book. The tiled floor of the coffee shop is cropped so that it seems as if Borges and Sábato are sitting atop a chessboard floating in empty black space, a perfect pictorial representation both of what made their respective oeuvres so beloved and of the hostile competitiveness that characterized their relationship.8
Another well-known image shows them standing side-by-side, outdoors, framed from behind by the angular entrance to a stone building. Though the picture is colorless it’s easy to see it was a clear day, the sun reflecting off car hoods and the building’s white façade and the protuberating foreheads of the two geniuses. They stand really close, their shoulders touching, perhaps Borges’ left arm resting on Sábato’s lower back, remarkably similar in height. They almost but not quite face each other, Borges in his three-piece suit and holding his ever-present cane (he was almost completely blind by then), Sábato in casual dress, his thumb in the pocket of his sports coat, his eyes hidden behind a large pair of sunglasses. They look anything but frail in this picture, more like two affronted gentlemen exchanging pleasantries before their prescheduled duel.
3. Torn Apart
Everybody assumed the core of the hostility was political. “Inevitably,” Sábato once wrote, “one or the other said things that were perhaps unfair. We were torn apart by cruel ideas about the destiny of our shared motherland.”9 Borges always claimed to be uninterested in ideology, but in word and deed oftentimes supported right-wing militarism in the name of tradition and the preservation of law and order.10
Sábato was an unabashed leftist, a vocal activist and community organizer, who lived clandestinely for years in the 1930s, on the run from the military junta that ruled his nation at the time. Indeed, a year after their tête-à-tête, in March of 1976, Argentina’s military removed from power the government of Isabel Perón (Latin America’s first female head of state) and established the bloodiest reign of terror in the country’s history, “the Dirty War” (“la Guerra Sucia”). Borges openly supported the military junta, a reputation-staining decision that would haunt him to his death. Sábato, at great personal risk, was a steadfast and vocal critic.11
No surprise then that these topics would be verboten during their recorded conversations. “We agreed on no politics,” Barone recalls. “Every time a political subject came up, Borges would realize they were separated by an abyss.”12
But politics was just an aspect and, Barone and many others suspected, perhaps even a secondary one, of the enmity between the “two faces or antitheses of Argentine culture in the 20th century.”13
The abyss between them was ethical, metaphysical, and aesthetic. “The two authors,” says the literary scholar Maarten van Delden, had “fundamentally different views of human psychology. Sábato repeatedly stresses his belief in the infinite complexity of human character. His novels serve to illustrate and explore this complexity. Borges claims to have no interest in human psychology.”14 Ricardo Campa concurs: “For Sábato, irony, if it is ever necessary, has no other end than alleviating dramatic tension; for Borges paradox is everything, a defense against the everyday. For Sábato, narrative is a penurious stylistic elaboration meant to achieve concrete (cognitive) effects; for Borges, writing is the result of an elegant attitude towards life.”15 Borges cared first and foremost about plot, while Sábato honed in on character. In his critical work, Sábato complains of Borges’ disinterest in the complexities of inner life, suggesting that behind it lay an embryonic moral relativism: “[Borges] is attracted to the mobile, the bipolar, the chess-like aspects of intelligence; playful, intelligent and curious, he is drawn to sophisms, subjugated by the hypothesis that everyone can be right, even better, that no one truly is.”16
Unavoidably, perhaps, each saw his worldview embodied in Don Quixote, both in the book, the first and greatest of Spanish novels, and in Don Quixote the character, the miserly gentleman Alonso Quijano, who loses his mind from reading too many stories about chivalry. Part I (first published in 1605), in which Cervantes uses the Don to satirize the adventures of errant knights, the one in which the Knight of the Sad Figure charges at windmills and threatens bakers with swift retribution for their evil sorcery, in which he gets repeatedly beaten up, thrown off his horse, mangled and humiliated, is by far the best known. As Borges told Sábato back in 1974, “if it were simply a satire of chivalry books it wouldn’t be El Quijote.”17 The humor of the tale, for one, is less about the pratfalls of the pathetic knight than about the fantastical world he creates, and the power of will he employs to force all others to adjust to his reality. Everyone knows Don Quixote is crazy, everybody mocks him and feels superior to him. He’s telling the joke, and everyone but him is in on it. Yet it is he who controls the action and sets the rules (temporarily at least) for everyone to follow. Despite unavoidable, repetitive failure he is a force, and a hero, the most human of heroes.
Human, but incomplete. Too fixated, too deluded. The true genius of the novel is in its second self, Sancho Panza, who acts as Don Quixote’s squire throughout the tale despite knowing him to be mad. Sancho, however, is no sidekick. He’s the Don’s counterpart and mirror image, short and stout against tall and lanky, cynical realist against romantic dreamer, self-interested cad against selfless hero. The literary critic Harold Bloom notes of Cervantes that he surpassed Shakespeare in creating “the most persuasive friendship in all of literature.” Don Quixote and Sancho “change and mature by listening to one another,” says Bloom, and “to make a third with them is to be blessed with happiness, yet also to be favored with self insight.”18 Many critics have suggested that Sancho Panza is Cervantes’ true avatar. At the least, as Borges noted to Sábato during one of their dialogues, a careful reader can identify “the quixotization of Sancho and the sanchification of Don Quixote.”19
Borges and Sábato agreed that the second volume of the novel (published in 1615) is the superior achievement. The adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho continue in the sequel, but this time they exist in a world in which the first volume also exists, and is a smashing success, which everyone (including the protagonists) have read. The action and dialogue, then, are loaded with yet another level of meaning, a constant winking at the audience, as well as an openings for new venues of analyzing human experience, both real and imagined. “Cervantes,” writes Borges, “enjoys confusing the objective and subjective, the world of the reader and the world of the book.”20
Of particular interest to Borges was the scene at the Cave of Montesinos, where Don Quixote falls asleep but continues adventuring, then later wonders “was it truth or was it a dream, what I tell of what happened in the Cave?”21 For Borges, the essence of Don Quixote is to be found in its metafictional games. “For Cervantes,” he claims, “reality and poetry are in opposition.”22
For Sábato the exact opposite is true. Cervantes, in his view, invented the modern novel in the second volume, since “the major theme in literature is not the adventure of man setting out to conquer the outside world but the adventure of man who explores the abysses and caves of his own soul.”23
If he achieved a monumental work that we still discuss today,” Sábato went on, “it’s because he wrote well.” Borges, his change of heart notwithstanding, wasn’t having it, firm in his conviction that Cervantes’ genius was instinctive and untaught: “I’m sure Cervantes never realized that he wrote well.” On and on it went, though the truth, they both knew it, Barone knew it, was that they could never have agreed on Cervantes, as on so much else, because their axiomatic definitions were at odds. For Borges writing well was a service the writer owes to the reader, a promise to keep the reader engrossed and entertained. For Sábato writing well was a service the writer owes to his characters, the main, the only tool the writer has to explore and discover anything of value. For Borges writing was a bridge. For Sábato it was a shovel.
Still, they went at it like good sports for a few more rounds. “I think Don Quixote is the sum of his adventures or he is nothing,” shot Sábato. “But the character is more important than what happens to him,” Borges retorted. Sábato smiled, says Barone, though an exasperated smile: “Don Quixote is what happens to him, he is defined by the things that happen to him.”24 Borges shook his head, and said something else, and something else, and something else, till the moment came, Barone must have felt it, when the energy sagged, and both writers seemed to be asking themselves whether any of it, the argument about Cervantes, the entire exercise, was worth it, whether all they were doing was rub off on each other till they eroded into exhaustion.
It isn’t clear at all from the conversations recorded by Barone, or from anything either man wrote about the other, whether Borges and Sábato ever tried to, were the least interested in trying to, understand each other.25
They were not unlike Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley, the protagonists of Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever,” who knew each other, lived close to each other, competed against each other, their entire lives, all the while “visualize[ing] each other, each through the wrong end of [his] little telescope.”26 Their long literary careers ran like two parallel lines, never coming any closer than they had to, ferociously avoiding any borgesization of Sábato, or sábatoization of Borges. Thoroughly unlike Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, who learned how to walk the world together despite existing in different realities.
At the beginning of the second volume of Don Quixote, the sad knight and his squire live apart, but are brought back together by the implorations of one Sansón Carrasco, who read all about their adventures in the published first part of the book. Upon being reminded of his past exploits, Don Quixote asks Sancho to saddle up once more and embark with him on a life of adventure. Sancho initially refuses, since there’s no money in it, but ultimately relents. “Again I offer myself,” he declares, “to serve you faithfully and legally, as well or better as squires have served knights in times past or present.” Seeing them together, and in light of Sancho’s thorough surrender to Don Quixote’s delusion, Carrasco muses that “though he had read the first story about this man, he hadn’t believed him to be as ridiculous as he was portrayed; but hearing him now […] he believed everything he’d read […] and told himself that two lunatics such as this master and servant had never been seen in the world.” Oblivious, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza have only eyes for each other. “Finally,” tells Cervantes, “Don Quixote and Sancho embraced, and stayed friends.”27 ∎
- Miguel de Cervantes El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha Editorial Edaf, 2005, p. 44. All translated quotes in this essay are my own renderings of the original Spanish texts.
- Orlando Barone (ed.) Diálogos Borges-Sábato, Buenos Aires: Editorial Emecé, 1976, p. 62.
- Barone, p. 49. The far-better-known Borges enjoyed putting Sábato in his place. When told that Sábato was being marketed by a publisher as “the rival of Borges,” he remarked that nobody ever referred to Borges as “the rival of Sábato.” Sábato, for his part, though always giving Borges his due as a “Great Poet,” was not above mockery. “The influence that Borges has had on Borges,” he writes, “seems insurmountable [Sources: Maarten van Delden “Ernesto Sábato, Author of ‘Death and the Compass’”, in Reescrituras L. Rodríguez Carranza and M. Nagle (eds.), Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2004, pp. 273-284, p. 273. Ernesto Sábato Uno y el Universo (Edición Definitiva), Biblioteca Breve, Editorial Seix Barral, p. 10 http://ciudadanoaustral.org/biblioteca/09.-Ernesto-Sabato-Uno-y-el-Universo.pdf .]
- Barone, p. 64.
- While Borges remains a canonical presence in world literature, Sábato’s body of work is almost completely forgotten outside of Argentina. A prolific essayist and public intellectual, he published only three works of fiction. His first novel, The Tunnel (El Túnel), was rite-of-passage reading for half a century’s worth of bookish Latin American teenagers, the type who were too smart to fall for the mystical claptrap peddled by Carlos Castañeda and Paolo Coelho. Brief, spare, unrelenting, it reads like an extended nightmarish hallucination, featuring an insane painter who becomes infatuated with a woman to the point of murder. It offers no consolation for the pain of the human condition, no pat, easy answers, no light at the end of the tunnel (pun intended). Think of it this way: if Ernesto Sábato were a European post-Impressionist painter he’d be Edvard Munch; if he were a British rock band he’d be Roger Waters-era Pink Floyd. But it was his second, far longer, far more ambitious novel, On Heroes and Tombs (Sobre Héroes y Tumbas), which earned him, if comparatively briefly, worldwide renown. Now all but unread, it was once considered a tent pole of the Latin American literary Boom of the 1960s, alongside García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Cortázar’s Hopscotch, Vargas Llosa’s Conversations in the Cathedral, and a handful of others. Technically it’s less a novel than a collection of four novellas involving a large cast of recurring characters, the most famous being the third section, “Report on the Blind” (“Informe sobre Ciegos”), a deranged first-person account by a paranoiac of his pursuit for evidence of a worldwide conspiracy by blind people to take over the world. The scenes of animal torture are especially delightful (sarcasm alert!). The prose throughout is unremarkable and conversational, the philosophical attitude a mixture of Kafka and the Polish author Witold Gombrowicz (whom Sábato knew, admired, and translated), with large heaps of Freud added in for flavor (Oedipal trauma is a central concern). His third and final novel Abbadón the Exterminator (Abbadón el Exterminador) was a sequel of sorts to Of Heroes and Tombs. It was highly praised critically but never found a wide readership.
- Alfredo Serra “El día que Borges y Sábato se sentaron a conversar”, Infobae, 12/17/2016 https://www.infobae.com/tendencias/2016/12/17/el-dia-que-borges-y-sabato-se-sentaron-a-conversar/ . Some of the people waiting in line for Borges’ signature approached Sábato and asked him to sign their books as well. To this day Argentine book collectors search madly for the handful of copies of Borges’ El Aleph embossed with a dedication from Sábato.
- Here’s what you should do to fully appreciate these fascinating, infuriating conversations: Step one, become fluent in Spanish, with special emphasis on the argot of mid-20th-century Buenos Aires. Step two, become well versed in Argentine, North American, European, and Russian history beginning in approximately 1811, with a sprinkle of Norse Mythology, Ancient Greek and Hindu philosophy, Buddhism, and the major texts of the Kabbalah. Step three, enjoy!
- Anyone who’s read Borges’ work – with its constant references to games, lines, borders, to legendary wise men and long-lost volumes of nonexistent lore, to infinite libraries and eternal recurring cycles and mirror images of mirages in the distance – nods in recognition at the mention of chess. In the short story “The Secret Miracle” (“El Milagro Secreto”), for instance, Borges’ avatar, Jaromir Hladík, dreams of “a long chess match. It wasn’t played by two individuals but by two illustrious families; the game had begun centuries before; nobody could name the forgotten prize, but it was murmured that it was enormous and perhaps infinite; the pieces and the board were kept in a secret tower.” Even more Borgesian is the poem titled “Chess” (“Ajedrez”), which casts the game pieces as slaves to the player who is in turn a prisoner “of another board/ of black nights and white days./ God moves the player, and he, the piece.” “In Borges,” according to the literary scholar Sergio Cordero, because of its closed-world quality, with rules of its own, rules separate and different from those of everyday life, “chess is the metaphor par excellence of theology in particular, philosophical doctrines in general, and, by extension, language itself.” [Sources for this paragraph: Jorge Luis Borges “El Milagro Secreto” in Borges Esencial Real Academia Española, 2017, p. 108. Jorge Luis Borges “Ajedrez” in Borges Esencial, p. 513. Sergio Cordero “Filosofía y lingüística en los cuentos fantásticos de Jorge Luis Borges,” La Palabra y el Hombre, no. 74, 1990, pp. 189-194 https://cdigital.uv.mx/handle/123456789/3661 .] Sábato was even more intimately acquainted with the game. A competitive player in high school, he became singularly fixated after the legendary world championship match between the Cuban José Raúl Capablanca and the Russo-French Alexander Alekhine was played in Buenos Aires in late 1927, so much so that he dropped out of high school to dedicate himself fully to chess until, the story goes, he abruptly and unexplainably quit playing, declaring the game “enormously stupid.” But like much else in his long public career this turned out to be a rash pronouncement, and he returned to chess often in his writing, as a metaphor for humanity’s place in the cosmos – “Man didn’t invent chess but discovered it. All the creations and the inventions of man are like matches in this Great Game of Chess” – as well as for the craft of literary creation – “As in chess, a word has no value by itself, but by its relative position within the entire structure of which it is a part. Only a mediocre writer can dismiss certain words, as a bad chess player dismisses a pawn: not knowing that sometimes it alone sustains the position.” Indeed, in his critical essays he highlighted the “chess-like” (“ajedrecística” in Spanish) quality of Borges’ fiction. Comparing Borges to Kafka, he said his compatriot’s stories “are of a geometric or chess-like type and produce intellectual anguish” while Kafka’s are “dark hallways, bottomless, inscrutable, and the anguish is the anguish of nightmare” (in other words, wrote Sábato, Borges’ fiction “is doing algebra rather than arithmetic”). [Sources for this paragraph: Juan Morgado “Un genio universal con notables vínculos con el ajedrez”, Noticias de Ajedrez, 4/30/2011 https://es.chessbase.com/post/ha-fallecido-ernesto-sbato/6 . Sábato, Uno y el Universo, pp. 9-10, 43, and 51.]
- Alfredo Serra “El primer y último encuentro de Borges y Sábato después de veinte años de enemistad e indiferencia”, Infobae, 12/16/2018 https://www.infobae.com/america/cultura-america/2018/12/16/el-primer-y-ultimo-encuentro-de-borges-y-sabato-despues-de-veinte-anos-de-enemistad-e-indiferencia/ .
- He even brought chess into the fray. The game, he said in an interview, “is one of the means available to us to save the culture, as are Latin, the study of the humanities, reading the classics, the laws of verse, ethics. Chess today is being replaced by soccer, boxing, or tennis, which are games for idiots, not for intellectuals.” [Source: Carlos Alberto Colodro “El Ajedrez Infinito de Borges,” Noticias de Ajedrez, 01/07/2018 https://es.chessbase.com/post/el-ajedrez-infinito-de-borges .]
- In May of 1976, Sábato and Borges were invited to lunch at the Pink House (Casa Rosada), Argentina’s presidential home, with General Rafael Videla, the head of the military junta. They asked for the release from prison of several writers detained for authoring “seditious” texts, but were unsuccessful. This was the last recorded meeting between Sábato and Borges. Tens of thousands of political prisoners were tortured and “disappeared” during the years of the Dirty War, until the return to democracy in 1983. A National Commission for the Disappeared was eventually convened to document the atrocities. Ernesto Sábato was selected as one of thirteen members of this body, and voted by his peers to be its president.
- https://www.facebook.com/1630642127249356/videos/3190314337752516 .
- Héctor Álvarez Castillo and Luis Manuel Noseda Borges-Sábato, Buenos Aires: Editorial Dunken, 2011, p. 7. Barone puts it better: “They were adversaries,” he writes in his book, “not from opposite sides of the street, but from opposite sides of the universe” (p. 49).
- Van Delden, “Ernesto Sábato, Author of ‘Death and the Compass’”, p. 275.
- Ricardo Campa “La Comprensión como Ficción”, Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos, No. 391-393, 1986, p. 17 http://www.bibliotecanacionaldigital.gob.cl/colecciones/BND/00/RC/RC0219739.pdf
- Ernesto Sábato “Sobre los dos Borges”, p. 48 (italics in the original).
- Barone, p. 37.
- Harold Bloom Novelists and Novels Checkmark Books, 2007, pp. 1-2.
- Barone, p. 166. Kafka went further, envisioning Sancho as the novel’s true center, who “by feeding him a great number of romances of chivalry and adventure,” divested himself from “his demon, whom he later called Don Quixote,” and instead followed him “on his crusades” and “had of them a great and edifying entertainment to the end of his days.” [Source: Franz Kafka “The Truth about Sancho Panza” in The Great Wall of China: Stories and Reflections, Schocken Books, 1946, p. 88.]
- Borges, “Magias Parciales del Quijote,” Borges Esencial, pp. 383-386, p. 384.
- Cervantes, p. 838. From Borges’ poem “Alonso Quijano Dreams” (“Sueña Alonso Quijano”): “The gentleman was Cervantes’ dream/ And Don Quijote was the gentleman’s dream/ The double dream confounds them and something/ Is happening which has happened before.”
- Borges, “Magias Parciales del Quijote,” p. 383.
- Sábato, Ernesto El Escritor y Sus Fantasmas Seix Barral, 1983, p. 33. Consider how each author uses Cervantes in his fiction. In his famous story “Pierre Menand, Author of Don Quixote” (“Pierre Menand, Autor del Quijote), Borges envisions the titular Frenchman intent on writing Don Quixote in its entirety. Not a new or modernized version of Don Quixote, not a copy of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, but his very own and original Don Quixote, which is nevertheless identical to Cervantes’. Menand succeeds, partially, in producing a new Don Quixote, “more subtle than Cervantes’”, who “in a crude manner, opposes knightly fictions with the provincial reality of his time.” [Source: Borges, Jorge Luis “Pierre Menand, Autor del Quijote” in Borges Esencial, pp. 30-38, p. 35]. In The Tunnel, Sábato has one of his characters fantasize about writing a “Quixote for our time” in the form of a detective novel: “Imagine an individual who’s spent his life reading crime novels and has arrived to the insane notion that the world works like a novel by Nicholas Blake or Ellery Queen.” Van Delden insightfully suggests that the purpose of this episode is to “mock Borges’ way of looking at literature.” [Sources: Sábato, Ernesto El Túnel https://www.ingenieria.unam.mx/dcsyhfi/material_didactico/Literatura_Hispanoamericana_Contemporanea/Autores_S/SABATO/El.pdf , p. 52. Van Delden, p. 279.]
- Barone, pp. 64-66.
- “Once or twice,” replied Sancho, “If I remember correctly, I’ve asked your grace not to correct my words, if you don’t understand my meaning, and when you don’t understand them, say ‘Sancho, I don’t understand you,’ and if I don’t answer, then you can correct me; I’m just eacile like that…” “I don’t understand you, Sancho,” said Don Quixote, “what do you mean by ‘I’m so eacile’?” “I’m eacile means,” replied Sancho, “this is how I am.” “Now I understand you even less,” replied Don Quixote. “Well, if you can’t understand me,” replied Sancho, “I don’t know how to tell you, I don’t know, God help me.” “Ah, now I get it,” replied Don Quixote, “you mean to say you are docile, that you are easy and meek, that you’ll do what I tell you, and learn what I teach you.” “I bet,” said Sancho, “that you understood me from the start, but you were teasing me, to make me say it two hundred different ways.” “Maybe I was,” replied Don Quixote. [Source: Cervantes, pp. 486-487]
- Edith Wharton “Roman Fever” Roman Fever and Other Stories, Scribner, 1997, pp. 3-22, p. 8.
- Cervantes, p. 489.